Iran will not send woman who faced stoning on adultery conviction to asylum in Brazil

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran will not send a woman who had faced death by stoning on an adultery conviction to Brazil, which has offered her asylum, the president said in a TV interview broadcast Monday.

The stoning sentence for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, has been lifted for now after it prompted an outcry from the United States and other governments as well as rights groups. Brazil, which has friendly relations with Iran, offered her asylum.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told state-run English-language Press TV he did not think there was a need to send her to Brazil and that he hoped the issue "will be solved," without explaining.

"There is a judge at the end of the day and the judges are independent. But I talked with the head of the judiciary and the judiciary also does not agree" with Brazil's proposal, Ahmadinejad said. "I think there is no need to create some trouble for President Lula and take her to Brazil," he added, referring to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The office of Brazil's president and its Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on Ahmadinejad's remarks.

Though Iran has lifted the stoning sentence, it is now accusing the woman of playing a role in her husband's 2005 murder. She could still be hanged.

Last week, Iranian state television broadcast a purported confession in which a woman identified as Ashtiani says she was an unwitting accomplice in her husband's murder. Her lawyer says he suspects she was tortured into making the statement, but he has not been allowed to meet with her since the broadcast to confirm that.

Human Rights Watch has said Ashtiani was first convicted in 2006 of having an "illicit relationship" with two men after the death of her husband and was sentenced by a court to 99 lashes. Later that year, she was also convicted of adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death, even though she retracted a confession that she claims was made under duress.

Iran lifted that sentence last month, but now says she has been convicted of involvement in her husband's killing.

Her lawyer, Javid Houtan Kian, denied she has ever been charged with murder or brought to trial over the killing.

Iran's Embassy in Brazil sought to explain the rejection of the asylum proposal in a statement addressed to the Brazilian public.

"If the granting of exile for criminals and murderers became a habit for nations, would this not affect the role of the legal systems of these nations?" the statement said.

Stoning was widely imposed in the years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, and even though Iran's judiciary still regularly hands down such sentences, they are often converted to other punishments.

The last known stoning was carried out in 2007, although the government rarely confirms that such punishments have been meted out.

Under Islamic rulings, a man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her chest with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies.